Johnson & Johnson will halt all sales of its talc-based baby powder in North America, after years of lawsuits claiming the product causes cancer – but, undeterred, the firm says it won’t stop selling it to the rest of the world.
The company announced the move in a statement on Tuesday, noting that it had decided to “permanently discontinue” the baby powder in the US and Canada to “prioritize high-demand products” amid the Covid-19 pandemic, attributing the fall in sales in part to “misinformation.”
“Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising,” the company said, adding that it would also stop selling around 100 other items in addition to the powder.
While Johnson & Johnson insists it is “steadfastly confident” in the safety of its talc-based baby powder, vowing to “vigorously defend the product” from “unfounded allegations,” the company has faced a flurry of lawsuits from customers over the years alleging the powder contains cancer-causing agents like asbestos. Though the firm has emerged victorious from some of the suits, it has also been forced to pay out massive sums to plaintiffs in others, such as a case last February in which it was ordered to shell out $750 million to four cancer patients.
Deeming the decision a “victory for public health,” the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization slammed Johnson & Johnson for being slow to act and misleading customers, while calling on Congress to “ban asbestos once and for all.”
“Americans should be able to trust they are safe from asbestos. Johnson & Johnson [J&J] spent decades misleading the public to think their often asbestos-contaminated baby powder was safe when they knew it was not,”said the group’s president, Linda Reinstein.
A small and influential group of chemical companies in America still rely on asbestos and have stood in the way of a national ban of this deadly substance. We can’t wait for them to follow J&J and see the error of their ways.
Despite some consumer safety advocates hailing the move as a win, however, the controversial product will continue to be sold “in other markets around the world,” Johson & Johnson said, where demand for the powder remains high and lawsuits are less common. The decision has left the company’s critics irked, some asking whether the world population beyond North America is “expendable.”
So if J&J will stop selling talcum in North America because of all the cancer lawsuits, why not just stop producing it period? Selling this powder to other countries, particularly developing nations would have the same cancer impact, no? Privilege much??? 🤔 #JohnsonandJohnsonhttps://t.co/u2BkcwrNl4— Crystal Murrell (@iamcrissydionne) May 19, 2020
Johnson & Johnson was forced to stop selling talc baby powder after 1000’s of cancer lawsuits.Yet, “the company will continue to sell talc-based baby powder in other parts of the world.”Apparently killing people elsewhere is acceptable? https://t.co/f7cQrM6MCF— Steve Asbell (semi-hiatus so I can draw) (@steve_asbell) May 19, 2020
Johnson & Johnson recalls single lot of Baby Powder after asbestos trace found
US drug company Johnson & Johnson said on Friday it would recall a single lot of its Baby Powder in the US after the Food and Drug Administration found trace amounts of asbestos in samples taken from a bottle purchased online.
According to the firm, the recall is limited to one lot of its Baby Powder produced and shipped in the US last year. The watchdog’s test indicated the presence of no greater than 0.00002 percent of chrysotile asbestos in the tested sample.
Asbestos is a term for a group of minerals often found in talc, which is widely used in cosmetics. Exposure to it may increase risks of a number of diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.
The company’s consumer unit said it was too early to confirm whether cross-contamination of the sample had caused a false positive, whether it was taken from a bottle with an intact seal or whether the sample was prepared in a controlled environment. The drug maker added that it could not confirm whether the product was authentic or counterfeit.
J&J, which is facing thousands of lawsuits related to products containing talc, said in a statement: “Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos.”
The pharmaceutical company has repeatedly said that its talc products were safe and asbestos-free.
Huge talcum powder verdict opens floodgates for lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson
The $417 million California ruling against Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which concluded one of the company’s talc-based powder products caused cancer, has opened a new front in litigation with thousands of lawsuits pending.
The verdict drastically reversed the corporation’s hopes that the cases were picking up steam only in Missouri, where four decisions against J&J totaled $307 million.
The pharmaceutical company is facing more battles in US courts with nearly 4,800 outstanding talc lawsuits. Read more US pharma Johnson & Johnson loses $110mn talc cancer case
Earlier this week, a California jury awarded $417 million to a woman who claimed the talcum baby powder being produced by the company for more than 120 years caused her ovarian cancer.
Eva Echeverria, 63, claimed that she developed ovarian cancer as she used Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene since childhood. The plaintiff said that J&J had failed to adequately warn consumers about its talcum powder’s potential cancer risks.
According to legal experts, the case had suggested a situation of forum-shopping, when litigants are trying to get their suits heard in a particular court that is likely to provide a favorable judgment.
“This has very much been about forum shopping. The fact that there has been a big verdict in California is definitely interesting,” Howard Erichson, a professor at Fordham School of Law, said, as quoted by Reuters.
The company still rejects any connection between cancer and its talc-based products, saying that it would appeal the verdict.
The sum awarded in the California lawsuit is bigger than all the previous talc awards combined. A total of $307 million in judgements was meted out by juries in St. Louis, Missouri, in cases filed by out-of-state residents.
J&J claims St. Louis courts to be plaintiff-friendly and is attempting to get the cases brought by out-of-state plaintiffs dismissed.
The company’s shares didn’t immediately react to the Californian ruling, but finished the last session down 1.41 percent.
The evidence against J&J was compelling, said product liability defense lawyer Nathan Schachtman, referring to the verdict.
“I think it’s a tough case for the defense,” he said, as quoted by Reuters.